Are pandas coming back to California? The Chinese president suggests so

(Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press)

Are pandas coming back to California? The Chinese president suggests so

Animals and pets, politics in California


November 16, 2023

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced late Wednesday that China will send new pandas to the United States, possibly to California, calling them envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American people.

We are ready to continue our cooperation with the United States on panda conservation, and do our best to meet the wishes of Californians and deepen friendly ties between our two peoples, Xi said during a dinner speech with business leaders in North America. California.

The gesture came at the end of a day in which Xi and President Biden held their first face-to-face meeting in a year and vowed to try to defuse tensions. Xi did not share additional details about when and where pandas might be provided, but seemed to suggest that the next pair of pandas will most likely come to California, likely San Diego.

The bears have long been a symbol of US-China friendship since Beijing donated a pair of pandas to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington in 1972, ahead of the normalization of bilateral ties. Beijing later loaned the pandas to other U.S. zoos, with proceeds going back to panda conservation programs.

The National Zoo’s three giant pandas, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their cub, Xiao Qi Ji, began their long journey back to China eight days ago. After their departure, only four pandas remain in the United States, at the Atlanta Zoo.

I was told that many American people, especially children, were really reluctant to say goodbye to the pandas and went to the zoo to see them off, Xi said in his speech. He added that he got to know the San Diego Zoo and that people in California are really looking forward to welcoming pandas back.

The pandas may have disappeared from American zoos by the end of next year

Xi is in California to attend a summit of Indo-Pacific leaders and for his meeting with Biden. He made no mention of the pandas during his public remarks earlier in the day when he met Biden.

As bilateral relations deteriorated in recent years, members of the Chinese public began demanding the return of giant pandas. Unproven allegations that US zoos were mistreating the pandas, known as China’s national treasure, flooded China’s social media.

But relations showed signs of stabilizing when Xi traveled to San Francisco to meet with Biden. The two men met for about four hours on Wednesday at the picturesque Filoli Historic House & Garden, where they agreed to cooperate on anti-narcotics, resume high-level military communications and expand people-to-people exchanges.

The National Zoos Exchange Agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Assn. was set to expire in early December, and negotiations to renew or extend the agreement were unsuccessful.

The San Diego Zoo returned its pandas in 2019, and the last bear at the Memphis, Tennessee Zoo went home earlier this year.


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